About gynocentrism

Gynocentrism (n.) refers to a dominant focus on women’s needs and wants relative to men’s needs and wants. This can happen in the context of cultural conventions, institutional policies, and in gendered relationships.1   

[see here for more dictionary definitions of gynocentrism]

Introduction

Cultural gynocentrism arose in Medieval Europe during a period cross-cultural influences and momentous changes in gendered customs. Beginning in the 11th century, European society birthed an intersection of Arabic poetry, aristocratic courting trends, the Marian cult, and later the imperial patronage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her daughter Marie who reimagined chivalry as a way to service ladies – a practice now referred to as courtly love.

Courtly love was enacted by minstrels, playrights, troubadours and hired romance-writers who laid down a model of romantic fiction that is still the biggest grossing genre of literature today. That confluence of factors generated the conventions that continue to drive gynocentric practices to the present.

Gynocentrism as a cultural phenomenon

The primary elements of gynocentric culture, as we experience it today, are derived from practices originating in medieval society such as feudalism, chivalry and courtly love that continue to inform contemporary society in subtle ways. Such gynocentric patters constitute a “sexual feudalism,” as attested by female writers like Lucrezia Marinella who in 1600 AD recounted that women of lower socioeconomic classes were treated as superiors by men who acted as servants or beasts born to serve them, or by Modesta Pozzo who in 1590 wrote;

“don’t we see that men’s rightful task is to go out to work and wear themselves out trying to accumulate wealth, as though they were our factors or stewards, so that we can remain at home like the lady of the house directing their work and enjoying the profit of their labors? That, if you like, is the reason why men are naturally stronger and more robust than us — they need to be, so they can put up with the hard labor they must endure in our service.”2

The golden casket at the head of this page depicting scenes of servile behaviour toward women were typical of courtly love culture of the Middle Ages. Such objects were given to women as gifts by men seeking to impress. Note the woman standing with hands on hips in a position of authority, and the man being led around by a neck halter, his hands clasped in a position of subservience.

It’s clear that much of what we today call gynocentrism was invented in this early period, where the feudal template was employed as the basis for a new model for love in which men would play the role of a vassal to women who assumed the role of an idealized Lord.

C.S. Lewis, in the middle of the 20th Century, referred to this historical revolution as “the feudalisation of love,” and stated that it has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched. “Compared with this revolution,” states Lewis, “the Renaissance is a mere ripple on the surface of literature.”3 Lewis further states;

“Everyone has heard of courtly love, and everyone knows it appeared quite suddenly at the end of the eleventh century at Languedoc. The sentiment, of course, is love, but love of a highly specialized sort, whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, and the Religion of Love. The lover is always abject. Obedience to his lady’s lightest wish, however whimsical, and silent acquiescence in her rebukes, however unjust, are the only virtues he dares to claim. Here is a service of love closely modelled on the service which a feudal vassal owes to his lord. The lover is the lady’s ‘man’. He addresses her as midons, which etymologically represents not ‘my lady’ but ‘my lord’. The whole attitude has been rightly described as ‘a feudalisation of love’. This solemn amatory ritual is felt to be part and parcel of the courtly life.” 4

With the advent of (initially courtly) women being elevated to the position of ‘Lord’ in intimate relationships, and with this general sentiment diffusing to the masses and across much of the world today, we are justified in talking of a gynocentric cultural complex that affects, among other things, relationships between men and women. Further, unless evidence of widespread gynocentric culture can be found prior to the Middle Ages, then  gynocentrism is approximately 1000 years old. In order to determine if this thesis is valid we need to look further at what we mean by “gynocentrism”.

The term gynocentrism has been in circulation since the 1800’s, with the general definition being “focused on women; concerned with only women.”5 From this definition we see that gynocentrism could refer to any female-centered practice, or to a single gynocentric act carried out by one individual. There is nothing inherently wrong with a gynocentric act (eg. celebrating Mother’s Day) , or for that matter an androcentric act (celebrating Father’s Day). However when a given act becomes instituted in the culture to the exclusion of other acts we are then dealing with a hegemonic custom — i.e. such is the relationship custom of elevating women to the position of men’s social, moral or spiritual superiors.

Author of Gynocentrism Theory Adam Kostakis has attempted to expand the definition of gynocentrism to refer to “male sacrifice for the benefit of women” and “the deference of men to women,” and he concludes; “Gynocentrism, whether it went by the name honor, nobility, chivalry, or feminism, its essence has gone unchanged. It remains a peculiarly male duty to help the women onto the lifeboats, while the men themselves face a certain and icy death.”6

While we can agree with Kostakis’ descriptions of assumed male duty, the phrase gynocentric culture more accurately carries his intention than gynocentrism alone. Thus when used alone in the context of this website gynocentrism refers to part or all of gynocentric culture, which is defined here as any culture instituting rules for gender relationships that benefit females at the expense of males across a broad range of measures.

At the base of gynocentric culture lies the practice of enforced male sacrifice for the benefit of women. If we accept this definition we must look back and ask whether male sacrifices throughout history were always made for the sake women, or alternatively for the sake of some other primary goal? For instance, when men went to die in vast numbers in wars, was it for women, or was it rather for Man, King, God and Country? If the latter we cannot then claim that this was a result of some intentional gynocentric culture, at least not in the way I have defined it here. If the sacrifice isn’t intended directly for the benefit women, even if women were occasional beneficiaries of male sacrifice, then we are not dealing with gynocentric culture.

Male utility and disposability strictly “for the benefit of women” comes in strongly only after the advent of the 12th century gender revolution in Europe – a revolution that delivered us terms like gallantry, chivalry, chivalric love, courtesy, damsels, romance and so on. From that period onward gynocentric practices grew exponentially, culminating in the demands of today’s feminist movement. In sum, gynocentrism (ie. gynocentric culture) was a patchy phenomenon at best before the middle ages, after which it became ubiquitous.

With this in mind it makes little sense to talk of gynocentric culture starting with the industrial revolution a mere 200 years ago (or 100 or even 30 yrs ago), or of it being two million years old as some would argue. We are not only fighting two million years of genetic programming; our culturally constructed problem of gender inequity is much simpler to pinpoint and to potentially reverse. All we need do is look at the circumstances under which gynocentric culture first began to flourish and attempt to reverse those circumstances. Specifically, that means rejecting the illusions of romantic love (feudalised love), along with the practices of misandry, male shaming and servitude that ultimately support it.

La Querelle des Femmes, and advocacy for women

The Querelle des Femmes translates as the “quarrel about women” and amounts to what we might today call a gender-war. The querelle had its beginning in twelfth century Europe and finds its culmination in the feminist-driven ideology of today (though some authors claim, unconvincingly, that the querelle came to an end in the 1700s).

The basic theme of the centuries-long quarrel revolved, and continues to revolve, around advocacy for the rights, power and status of women, and thus Querelle des Femmes serves as the originating title for gynocentric discourse.

To place the above events into a coherent timeline, chivalric servitude toward women was elaborated and given patronage first under the reign of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1137-1152) and instituted culturally throughout Europe over the subsequent 200 year period. After becoming thus entrenched on European soil there arose the Querelle des Femmes which refers to the advocacy culture that arose for protecting, perpetuating and increasing female power in relation to men that continues, in an unbroken tradition, in the efforts of contemporary feminism.7

Writings from the Middle Ages forward are full of testaments about men attempting to adapt to the feudalisation of love and the serving of women, along with the emotional agony, shame and sometimes physical violence they suffered in the process. Gynocentric chivalry and the associated querelle have not received much elaboration in men’s studies courses to-date, but with the emergence of new manuscripts and quality English translations it may be profitable to begin blazing this trail.8

References

1. Wright, P., What’s in a suffix? taking a closer look at the word gyno–centrism
2. Modesta Pozzo, The Worth of Women: their Nobility and Superiority to Men
3. C.S. Lewis, Friendship, chapter in The Four Loves, HarperCollins, 1960
4. C.S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love, Oxford University Press, 1936
5. Dictionary.com – Gynocentric
6. Adam Kostakis, Gynocentrism Theory – (Published online, 2011). Although Kostakis assumes gynocentrism has been around throughout recorded history, he singles out the Middle Ages for comment: “There is an enormous amount of continuity between the chivalric class code which arose in the Middle Ages and modern feminism… One could say that they are the same entity, which now exists in a more mature form – certainly, we are not dealing with two separate creatures.”
7. Joan Kelly, Early Feminist Theory and the Querelle des Femmes (1982), reprinted in Women, History and Theory, UCP (1984)
8. The New Male Studies Journal has published thoughtful articles touching on the history and influence of chivalry in the lives of males.

Love in the Song of Songs

In the lead up to Valentine’s Day when Christian (and other) women look forward to receiving gestures of romantic love from men, I thought I would ask AI to clarify what is the nature of love as portrayed in the most famous lovers book in the Bible: “What is the Hebrew word used for the kind of love portrayed in the Song Of Solomon?”

ANSWER: The primary Hebrew word for love in the context of the Song of Solomon is ‘ahabah’. Although it does not explicitly refer to romantic love or sexual desire, within the context of this love song, it conveys deep affection, longing, and desire.

Even in the Septuagint, which includes a Greek translation of the Song of Songs, the word used is agape, though clearly the term eros is also applicable to the lengthy descriptions of longing and desire that take place between the two lovers. Ahabah, agape and eros described in this book are examples of reciprocal love, and they are not equivalent to the medieval practice of romantic love which requires sycophantic male love service toward a pedestalised woman. With these distinctions in mind, we can say that Christians who wish to celebrate romantic love, whether on Valentine’s or any other day, can be justifiably be charged with practicing heretical versions of love.

As a second note of clarification, St. Valentine had nothing to do with the concept of romantic love during his life, nor did romantic love play a part in the early legends that surrounded him. His namesake only later became associated with courtly & romantic love through a fanciful revisionism in the Middle Ages via poets like Chaucer who fabricated a link between the saint and romantic love. That conflation was continued by William Shakespeare, John Donne and many other poets, leading to the popular conception of romantic chivalry we inherit in today’s Valentine’s celebration.

Romantic love (as symbolised in this image) is a heresy that does not match Biblical descriptions of love

Romantic love (as symbolised in this image) is a heresy that does not match Biblical descriptions of love

‘La Querelle Des Femmes’: The Birth of The Feminist Movement

Not long after romantic chivalry was invented and popularised a millennium ago, some medieval authors began to make jokes about the outlandish male sycophancy and pedestalisation of women that the new tradition entailed.  Christine de Pizan (1364-1431), a woman whom French feminists characterise as the “first feminist,” took public offense the attack on romantic chivalry and on female purity, which she considered a degradation of women’s dignity which feminists today would label misogyny.

Christine’s response launched a movement called La querelle des femmes (the quarrel about women’s rights), which continues today under the name ‘feminism.’ The basic theme of the centuries-long quarrel revolved, and continues to revolve, around advocacy for the rights, power and status of women, and thus the querelle des femmes serves as the originating title for the modern feminist movement.

Feminist historian Joan Kelly characterizes this early history of feminism as follows:

We generally think of feminism, and certainly of feminist theory, as taking rise in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Most histories of the Anglo-American women’s movement acknowledge feminist “forerunners” in individual figures such as Anne Hutchinson, and in women inspired by the English and French revolutions, but only with the women’s rights conference at Seneca Falls in 1848 do they recognize the beginnings of a continuously developing body of feminist thought.

Histories of French feminism claim a longer past. They tend to identify Christine de Pisan (1364-1430?) as the first to hold modern feminist views and then to survey other early figures who followed her in expressing pro-woman ideas up until the time of the French Revolution…

The early feminists did not use the term “feminist,” of course. If they had applied any name to themselves, it would have been something like defenders or advocates of women, but it is fair to call this long line of prowomen writers that runs from Christine de Pisan to Mary Wollstonecraft by the name we use for their nineteenth- and twentieth-century descendants. Latter-day feminism, for all its additional richness, still incorporates the basic positions the feminists of the querelle were the first to take.1

When we consider the longevity of this movement, along with its aim to increase the power of women through the exploitation of gynocentric chivalry,2 we might be forgiven for believing its time for romantic chivalry and the associated gender wars it has sparked to be finally put to rest.

A short summary:

 

 

References:

[1] Kelly, J. (1982). Early feminist theory and the” querelle des femmes”, 1400-1789. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 8(1), 4-28. See also: Bock, G., & Zimmermann, M. (2002). The European Querelle des femmes. Donavín G., Poster, C. Utz, R.(coords) Medieval Forms of Argument Disputation and Debate, Or: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 127-156.

[2] Wright, P. (2018). Bastardized Chivalry: From Concern for Weakness to Sexual Exploitation. New Male Studies7(2).

Romantic love introduced cuckoldry and hatred of husbands

Due to the invention of romantic love in the Middle Ages, tells Maurice Valency, women came to view extra-marital love as more rewarding than their marriages, giving the first signs of attack on husbands and marriage that would culminate in frivolous marriages, and no-fault divorce of the present day. Note below the appalling situation that husbands were placed in, leading eventually to husbands having to accede to the demands of women’s romantic interests; for example tradcons today make much noise about romantic “date nights” which are attempts to make their marriages viable in the assessment of wives.

Below is an excerpt from Valency’s  In Praise of Love: An Introduction to the Love-Poetry of the Renaissance (1958):




Source: Maurice Valency, In Praise of Love: An Introduction to the Love-Poetry of the Renaissance (1958)

The Psychology of Guilting

Accusations of wrongdoing, and the saddling of males with a sense of guilt and shame, is used as a means to increase male labor and productivity – a result that works extremely well to the benefit of women, companies, and the State.

That formula can be stated simply as – Aggression, Guilt, Repair.

It refers to a psychological process that happens when someone commits a slightly destructive or aggressive act, and they notice the damage they have caused, or otherwise are made to notice the damage by others. This triggers a guilt reaction for feeling that one has damaged people they may care about and, after feeling guilty, they will typically move to repair the damage with benevolent gestures.

It doesn’t matter whether the claims of destructiveness are accurate, somewhat trumped up, or completely fabricated; it has the same effect of generating concern in the minds of the accused, who will react with various attempts to fix the problem and smooth it over.

This formula is laid out by pediatric psychiatrist Donald Winnicott1 who described the process already at work in earliest childhood, in infants who already show a concern over the results of their own destructiveness. Thus, when an infant bites his mother’s nipple, or screams and kicks, the mother typically gets frustrated, verbally upset and proceeds to walk away from the infant. At that moment the baby descends into what is described as a guilt state (becoming listless, crying, fearful), then when mother returns the baby goes all out trying to repair the damage – reaching out to hug mother, smiling, offering mother a rattle, etc. This is the process of aggression – guilt – repair,and it’s a cycle repeated thousands of times during everyone’s infancy.

It goes without saying that the repair effort is absolutely vital to any infant who is dependent on his mother for existence, and therefore we all carry that primal fear of loss when momma walks out of the room…… will she return? As a social and pair-bonding species the concern is real, and it probably goes a long way to explaining the popular cliché “If momma aint happy, aint nobody happy!” This sentiment is likely a hangover from childhood experience, one that can be exploited in adult relationships via acts of coldness; in the proverbial “silent treatment” or other forms of threat to a stable bond.

Winnicott contends that the aggression–guilt–repair cycle underlies all productivity in the wider social space; ie. that people wish to contribute into society to atone for supposed past destructiveness, no matter how insignificant, or to contribute as an atonement for future destructiveness that has not yet happened (and may never happen!). People want to feel good with the world, thus by contributing to people and the society around them they store up capital in their reparative bank accounts – often in the form of labor and sharing of finances, or otherwise via the currency of thoughtful gestures, deference, verbal compliments and the like.

When we consider that the reparative gestures more often take the form of labor – especially men’s labor – we could perhaps equally render Winnicott’s formula as Aggression – Guilt – Labor, and lose nothing of its meaning.

Here we note that the phrase ’emotional labor’ takes on a whole new, and very male sense.

On a more tangible level I’ve talked with a lot of men who admitted that when they feel they’ve done something bad, no matter how minor, or that they’ve done something destructive in the eyes of their wife or partner, they go all-out trying to repair the damage.  They may give her a bunch of flowers, or they might labor around the yard or paint the interior of the house or some other manual task, and via these constant reparative gestures they tend to provide far more labor than would normally be the case. This unfortunately can become a sick game between couples; if a man (or woman) can be made to feel bad enough, and frequently enough, they become pathologically productive.

To that end, many men feel that their wives have become daughters of B. F. Skinner, regularly hearing the nagging din of “You’ve been very insensitive to me recently, and you haven’t even painted the house yet!” or “You never show me any love gestures!”

The myth of Greek hero Heracles is paradigmatic of this cycle, showing the same pattern described by Winnicott in an endless loop; Heracles commits destructive deeds, feels guilt, and then attempts to repair the damage through hard labors. His desire to repair things often comes via contributing to society, by helpful assertions of strength to rid the world of monsters and lawless creatures, or performing useful engineering feats, while at the same time vigorously denying any weakness that would slow him down.  As Philip Slater observes;

The Heraclean myths also include the self-abasing strategy. This is inferred, not from his appearance as a buffoon in Attic drama, but from his role as a servant of the gods and a slave to women. He consistently performs “dirty work” for others, killing pests, cleaning the Augeian stables, herding cattle, reaping grain, and so on. Indeed, his entire life is one of suffering, servitude, and degradation, relieved only by his achievements and final apotheosis. From the slave of the cowardly Eurystheus he becomes the slave of Omphale, and is constantly being cheated of his wages (e.g., by Eurystheus, Augeias, Eurytus, and Laomedon).3 (p.375)

Heracles, along with every man who labors compulsively, is motivated to repair what he unconsciously feels are the results of his own destructiveness — even his potential destructiveness that may never manifest in real behavior. The mere potential of destructiveness is enough to set the compulsive work cycle in motion, especially if under the watchful direction of a scold.

Might this provide the esoteric rationale for why all men are labelled toxic? 

We can only imagine what the world would look like if men were not operating under pressure of guilt; it would probably look more like a series of relaxed traditional villages instead of the outlandish marvels of civilization we see today. When it comes to measuring national productivity, the benchmark GDP could perhaps be partly interpreted as men’s Guilty Domestic Product.4

Misandry as a fomenter of productivity

Misandry is not a simple scapegoating reflex, although that is a part of it. Misandric blaming is also an assist for increasing the power and enrichment of the State, of corporations, and of course women, because it increases men’s productivity.

That payoff is why misandry has remained normalized, but it doesn’t have to remain that way for conscious men.

Some of the phrases directed at men are proof of the desire to increase men’s labor; phrasings like “You need to man up!” which often means a man needs to work harder. Men are called deadbeats (not producing enough money), ‘man-babies’ (for not wanting to overdo things nor put their health at risk), or Peter Pans (too busy enjoying life instead of working), or they may be characterized sarcastically as a ‘failure to launch’ (for younger men failing to rush headlong into a career and a job by which he can contribute his labor to society).

Or, in the recent past, what about the negative disparaging of a man as “gay” (whether he was or not), which implied such a man was failing to indenture himself in service to women and family with some kind of productive contribution (gay men were busying themselves doing non-gynocentric things). We’ve even heard that some men assaulted homosexual men, on rare occasions, as if they were a reminder of their own beaten up, freedom-yearning soul. As ugly as this is, it provides an example of men’s internalized misandry that attempts to ‘put a man in his place,’ by violence if necessary.

In conclusion we can say that misandry is not only a vehicle for cathartic blame, but is more geared to ‘keep men in their place’ – and that place is to be a guilt-driven provider. Women in the long-ago past were similarly subjected to these ‘in your place’ roles, but those days for women are long gone in most developed nations.

It is now men’s turn to break the cycle and say no to imputed guilt, or at least refuse to make genuine guilt available for others to exploit. If you fail to protect yourself in this regard, you are on a fast track to slavery and, in all likelihood, are already there.

References:

[1]. Donald Winnicott, The Development Of A Capacity For Concern (1963), Chapter 6 in The Maturational Process And The Facilitating Environment, International universities Press, (1965).

[2]. Donald Winnicott, Aggression, Guilt and Reparation (1960), Chapter 16 in  Deprivation And Delinquency, Tavistock Publications, (1984)

[3]. Philip Slater, The Glory Of Hera: Greek Mythology and The Greek Family, Beacon Press, (1968)

[4]. Note: for those who are inclined to take comments literally, rest assured this comment about traditional villages (and GDP) is intended hyperbole.

______________________________

For a longer study on the psychology of guilt, from which this article is a quote, see Heracles: A Slave To Guilt And Shame

Female sexual desire as described in the Middle Ages

The following is from Maurice Valency’s In Praise Of Love, on the topic of female sexuality as it was observed in the Middle Ages. Note how different is this conception from contemporary fantasies on the nature of male and female sexuality.





I want a man who will “spoil” me

We often hear women say they want a man “to spoil” them on Valentine’s Day, or on other occasions, and after the event they say they “feel spoilt.” Some women want the spoiling experience so badly that they complain with an air of aggrieved entitlement when it doesn’t eventuate.

What exactly does this term mean, and where did it originate?

The word “spoiled” was derived from the Latin and Old French verb “spoil”, which meant “to strip, rob, plunder, pillage.” The term spoiled was also used to describe something that was “destroyed, ruined, damaged so as to render useless.” It was first applied to children or women in the sense of “over-indulged, injured in character by excessive lenience” in 1640, and carried the additional meaning of “to become tainted or unsavory, go bad, and lose freshness” – in other words a reference to something going rotten, like a piece of stinking fish or old fruit.

The word “spoiled” became synonymous with pampering women in the context of romantic relationships, where a man would treat his woman like a queen or a princess and indulge her every whim with chivalric deference and love service. The implication here is that spoiling is synonymous with going too far on behalf of spoilee, and spoiler.

A Google search for spoiling someone on Valentine’s Day, by gender, returned the following results:

“Spoiled her” – 409, 000 results
“Spoiled him” – 24, 000 results

That’s a differential of 17:1 in favor of women being recipients of the spoiling experience, and if we take spoiling a partner on Valentine’s Day or on any other occasion as a measure of gendered status, it appears women are doing very well.

The only question remaining is whether society understands the root meaning of this little phrase to spoil, and its social consequences.

 

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) predicted collapse of America due to gyneolatry

Ashes Of The Beacon  is a prose work by Ambrose Bierce, an American writer known for his satirical and cynical style. The work is divided into four volumes and was published between 1907 and 1912. Ashes Of The Beacon is a futuristic and dystopian vision of the history and decline of the United States of America, written from the perspective of a historian who is looking back from the year 4930. The work criticizes the failures of democracy, capitalism, religion, and especially gynocentric culture in America. It is considered one of Bierce’s most controversial and provocative works, and has been compared to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The following is an excerpt from the work. – PW

* * * *

 

‘ASHES OF THE BEACON’
An Historical Monograph Written in 4930

Of the many causes that conspired to bring about the lamentable failure of “self-government” in ancient America the most general and comprehensive was, of course, the impracticable nature of the system itself.

The ancient Americans were a composite people; their blood was a blend of all the strains known in their time. Their government, while they had one, being merely a loose and mutable expression of the desires and caprices of the majority—that is to say, of the ignorant, restless and reckless—gave the freest rein and play to all the primal instincts and elemental passions of the race. In so far and for so long as it had any restraining force, it was only the restraint of the present over the power of the past—that of a new habit over an old and insistent tendency ever seeking expression in large liberties and indulgences impatient of control. In the history of that unhappy people, therefore, we see unveiled the workings of the human will in its most lawless state, without fear of authority or care of consequence. Nothing could be more instructive. […]

A singular phenomenon of the time was the immunity of criminal women. Among the Americans woman held a place unique in the history of nations. If not actually worshiped as a deity, as some historians, among them the great Sagab-Joffoy, have affirmed, she was at least regarded with feelings of veneration which the modern mind has a difficulty in comprehending. Some degree of compassion for her mental inferiority, some degree of forbearance toward her infirmities of temper, some degree of immunity for the offenses which these peculiarities entail—these are common to all peoples above the grade of barbarians. In ancient America these chivalrous sentiments found open and lawful expression only in relieving woman of the burden of participation in political and military service; the laws gave her no express exemption from responsibility for crime. When she murdered, she was arrested; when arrested, brought to trial—though the origin and meaning of those observances are not now known.

Gunkux, whose researches into the jurisprudence of antiquity enable him to speak with commanding authority of many things, gives us here nothing better than the conjecture that the trial of women for murder, in the nineteenth century and a part of the twentieth, was the survival of an earlier custom of actually convicting and punishing them, but it seems extremely improbable that a people that once put its female assassins to death would ever have relinquished the obvious advantages of the practice while retaining with purposeless tenacity some of its costly preliminary forms.

Whatever may have been the reason, the custom was observed with all the gravity of a serious intention. Gunkux professes knowledge of one or two instances (he does not name his authorities) where matters went so far as conviction and sentence, and adds that the mischievous sentimentalists who had always lent themselves to the solemn jest by protestations of great vraisemblance against “the judicial killing of women,” became really alarmed and filled the land with their lamentations.

Among the phenomena of brazen effrontery he classes the fact that some of these loud protagonists of the right of women to assassinate unpunished were themselves women! Howbeit, the sentences, if ever pronounced, were never executed, and during the first quarter of the twentieth century the meaningless custom of bringing female assassins to trial was abandoned. What the effect was of their exemption from this considerable inconvenience we have not the data to conjecture, unless we understand as an allusion to it some otherwise obscure words of the famous Edward Bok, the only writer of the period whose work has survived. In his monumental essay on barbarous penology, entitled “Slapping the Wrist,” he couples “woman’s emancipation from the trammels of law” and “man’s better prospect of death” in a way that some have construed as meaning that he regarded them as cause and effect. It must be said, however, that this interpretation finds no support in the general character of his writing, which is exceedingly humane, refined and womanly.

It has been said that the writings of this great man are the only surviving work of his period, but of that we are not altogether sure. There exists a fragment of an anonymous essay on woman’s legal responsibility which many Americologists think belongs to the beginning of the twentieth century. Certainly it could not have been written later than the middle of it, for at that time woman had been definitely released from any responsibility to any law but that of her own will. The essay is an argument against even such imperfect exemption as she had in its author’s time.

“It has been urged,” the writer says, “that women, being less rational and more emotional than men, should not be held accountable in the same degree. To this it may be answered that punishment for crime is not intended to be retaliatory, but admonitory and deterrent. It is, therefore, peculiarly necessary to those not easily reached by other forms of warning and dissuasion. Control of the wayward is not to be sought in reduction of restraints, but in their multiplication. One who cannot be curbed by reason may be curbed by fear, a familiar truth which lies at the foundation of all penological systems.

The argument for exemption of women is equally cogent for exemption of habitual criminals, for they too are abnormally inaccessible to reason, abnormally disposed to obedience to the suasion of their unregulated impulses and passions. To free them from the restraints of the fear of punishment would be a bold innovation which has as yet found no respectable proponent outside their own class.

“Very recently this dangerous enlargement of the meaning of the phrase ‘emancipation of woman’ has been fortified with a strange advocacy by the female ‘champions of their sex.’ Their argument runs this way: ‘We are denied a voice in the making of the laws relating to infliction of the death penalty; it is unjust to hold us to an accountability to which we have not assented.’ Of course this argument is as broad as the entire body of law; it amounts to nothing less than a demand for general immunity from all laws, for to none of them has woman’s assent been asked or given. But let us consider this amazing claim with reference only to the proposal in the service and promotion of which it is now urged: exemption of women from the death penalty for murder. In the last analysis it is seen to be a simple demand for compensation. It says: ‘You owe us a solatium. Since you deny us the right to vote, you should give us the right to assassinate. We do not appraise it at so high a valuation as the other franchise, but we do value it.’

“Apparently they do: without legal, but with virtual, immunity from punishment, the women of this country take an average of one thousand lives annually, nine in ten being the lives of men. Juries of men, incited and sustained by public opinion, have actually deprived every adult male American of the right to live. If the death of any man is desired by any woman for any reason he is without protection. She has only to kill him and say that he wronged or insulted her. Certain almost incredible recent instances prove that no woman is too base for immunity, no crime against life sufficiently rich in all the elements of depravity to compel a conviction of the assassin, or, if she is convicted and sentenced, her punishment by the public executioner.”  […]

A remarkable feature of the crude and primitive civilization of the Americans was their religion. This was polytheistic, as is that of all backward peoples, and among their minor deities were their own women. This has been disputed by respectable authorities, among them Gunkux and the younger Kekler, but the weight of archæological testimony is against them, for, as Sagab-Joffy ingeniously points out, none of less than divine rank would by even the lowest tribes be given unrestricted license to kill.

Among the American’s woman, as already pointed out, indubitably had that freedom, and exercised it with terrible effect, a fact which makes the matter of their religion pertinent to the purpose of this monograph. If ever an American woman was punished by law for murder of a man no record of the fact is found; whereas, such American literature as we possess is full of the most enthusiastic adulation of the impossible virtues and imaginary graces of the human female. One writer even goes to the length of affirming that respect for the sex is the foundation of political stability, the cornerstone of civil and religious liberty! After the break-up of the republic and the savage intertribal wars that followed, Gyneolatry was an exhausted cult and woman was relegated to her old state of benign subjection.

Source: The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce,  Volume 1 (1909)

Madame Bovary Syndrome (English Translation from the original French paper – 1892)

Madame Bovary Syndrome (or bovarysme/bovarism) represents a delusional fixation on romantic ideals.  The term was coined by French writer J. de Gaultier in his 1892 essay Le bovarysme, la psychologie dans l’oeuvre de Flaubert, with the following two excerpts translated (and paraphrased) from the original French essay. – PW

Mr. Montégut noted that the appearance of Madame Bovary “was a reaction to certain long-sovereign influences.” She stood in all reality for the false ideal made fashionable by the school of romantic love and for the dangerous sentimentality that has as its counterpart the male figure of Don Quixote who was a consequence for the too long-prolonged chivalric mania of Spain.

Mr. Montégut continues; “As Cervantes dealt the death blow to the chivalrous mania with the very weapons of chivalry, it is with the very same processes that G. Flaubert has destroyed the false ideal promoted by the romantic love school; it is with the very resources of the romantic imagination that he has painted the vices and errors of that imagination in the figure of Madame Bovary.”  [Page 11]

* * *

If all of Flaubert’s characters reveal in their feelings and in their ideas the morbid principle that governs them, there is one who manifests a more complete, singularly evil set of symptoms: Madame Bovary. Equipped with a strongly accentuated temperament and an active will, she creates within herself, in contradiction to her real nature, a being of imagination, made of the substance of her reveries and  enthusiasms.

In complete good faith she incarnates in this ghost, and lends it passions and desires, putting in it all the tension of her nerves, and putting all the energy of her soul at its service to satisfy them.  Her true instincts however, always ready to emerge, protest with their violence against this usurpation and try to reconquer the place that has been taken from them; she strives to stifle their calls, and with incredible determination she persists in turning her eyes away from herself, seeing herself only under the appearance of her dream.

Her entire life is torn apart by this poignant struggle between her little-known real self and the chimerical monster she has installed in her brain. Thus torn between these two equal powers, abused by the false romantic ideal that she has formed of herself, the poor woman becomes this hybrid being dedicated to the necessary lie and leading ultimately to suicide, which alone puts an end to her terrible duality.

By the obstinate blindness by which she carried out her incessant evolution, and by her tragic end, she personified in herself this original disease of the human soul for which her name can serve as a label: we can understand that “Bovarysm” is the faculty given to man to conceive of himself otherwise than he is, without taking into account the various motives and external circumstances which determine this intimate transformation in each individual. [Page 26]

SEE ALSO: What is Madame Bovary Syndrome?

“Dame Amour” – French personification of courtly love

“Dame Amour” (English ‘Lady Love,’ or German ‘Frau Minne’) was a personified figure in medieval texts, especially by the French troubadours and trouvères, who were poets and singers who celebrated courtly love. They often addressed their beloved or the concept of love as “Dame Amour”, a female figure who represented the ideal and divine aspect of courtly love. She was also sometimes associated with the Virgin Mary, who was seen as the model of love and grace.

William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, who was the first known troubadour and the creator of courtly love, was the first person to use the phrase Dame Amour.  He used this term to refer to his mistress, who was also his son’s wife. He wrote many poems dedicated to her, praising her beauty and grace.

One example of “Dame Amour” as a personification is in the poem “Lanquan li jorn” by the troubadour Jaufre Rudel, who expresses his longing for a distant lady whom he has never seen. He says:

Lanquan li jorn son lonc en mai m’es belhs dous chans d’auzelhs de lonh, e quan mi sui partitz de lai oblit mon chan e mon solonh; e quan mi sui partitz de vos no’m laissetz ges de chant ni de ris, que ja mais no’m chantet d’Amors ni de sa belha cortesia.

When the days are long in May I love the sweet song of the birds from afar, and when I have left there I forget my song and my joy; and when I have left you you leave me no song or laughter, for never again will Love sing to me or of her beautiful courtesy3

Here, “Amors” is a feminine noun that refers to both the emotion of love and the personification of “Dame Amour”, who is the source of the poet’s inspiration and happiness. He laments that he has lost her favor and her song, which implies that she is a musical and divine being who can communicate with him.

Sources:

[1]: God and the Goddesses: Vision, Poetry, and Belief in the Middle Ages
[2]: The Mirror of Simple Souls: The Ethics of Margaret Porette [2013]
[3]: Lanquan li jorn son lonc en mai | Robbins Library Digital Projects : Jaufre Rudel | Detailed Pedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libeaus_Desconus

Note: Dame Amour (French) and Lady Love (English) represent the equivalent of the German Frau Minne, with each being the same personification and “goddess” of courtly love, but under a different title. This kind of love is a medieval invention which has no counterparts in the classical and ancient world.